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Seb Anthony

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deeper implications


we have al (in the UK) seen that a laptop was stolen from a car belonging to an MoD (RN) Officer, resulting in 6000 restricted personal files being lost to the (potentially) public domain.

Notwithstanding the data security issues, the "Derr-ness" of leaving a laptop in the car overnight and so on, is there a deeper issue relating to the apparent need to take work "home" and its relation to the long-hours culture?

How long before the miscreant is exhonorated due to the "management expectation of total 24/7 committment"? or, if it hasn't happened already, the RSI claim from lugging a heavy laptop back and forth to home each day for the same reason?


rus slater

8 Responses

  1. Where will it all end?
    I agree, having worked as a contractor for a long time I must admit I am a clock watcher and work no more than my prescribed hours. However I’ve noticed amongst the permanent staff a growing tendency to work through lunches and think nothing of staying late. The practice is so commonplace in the 21st century UK office environment that its normalised. “How do you achieve goals?” “I work longer hours than are required.”

    I am also disturbed by the willingness of staff to give up their personal time to prepare for appraisals, its almost as if they SHOULD be preparing in their own time (and they prefer to anyway because its quieter).

    On another tack a friend of mine now works from home, he previously worked in a call centre but employer has switched to home working. He was losing sales as many of his new home colleagues were putting in extra unpaid hours to clear up admin so they could spend more time making sales. They never did this previously but the culture (and their subtle perceptions?) had changed. All this and they were now paying for the heating, electricity, desks and stationary that their employer previously supplied in an office!

    No wonder we work the longest hours in Europe. Having said that, our newly arrived EU migrants are quite willing to work longer hours if indigenous UK workers say no.

    I think its a lot more to do with workforce acquiescence combined with management expectations. This unwillingness to make a stand is prevalent in many areas of society, people simply don’t bond, stand up together, protest or believe in unions or collective actions as they used to. Do under the 30’s demonstrate or have causes they are passionate about? Are the values of Thatcherite generation coming to the fore?

    In line with all this, I have started digging my own grave.

  2. cause and effect?
    I’m not so sure that the “long hours” phenomenon is as straightforward as Juliet’s “workers and management”;
    I know my evidence is anecdotal rather than statistical but I have to say that I know many people in the management bracket who work ridiculous hours.
    This includes time in the office and and travelling.
    Two people I know are salaried directors of plcs, both have had heart attacks but still they put in 12-14 hour days.

    There is a story (I don’t know if it is true) about HP in Japan who became so worried about the potential consequences of the long hours culture that they actually turned the power off in the offices at 6pm each day to stop people from staying late.

    Scott Adams (of “Dilbert” fame) suggests the Oa5 approach; “out at 5” as a policy to break people of the habit.

    Personally I think that tackling the the “long hours” culture should be a strategic objective for HR…the alternative is staff with damaged health, increased health/life insurance premiums, increased sickness and absence, higher staff turnover and greater likelihood of ETs in the future for stress related illness and harrassment.


  3. Notions
    Maybe I didn’t make my distinction clear, I was referring to “workforce combined with management expectations”.

    The two are exclusive, workforce is the general workforce including managers possessing the generally unchallenged notion to work long hours, and management expectations are that everyone ought to/needs to?

  4. which leads us to….
    the consensus (of 2!)therefore is that this is a cultural issue for staff across the spectrum of “rank” and consequently is a tough nut to crack…any thoughts from any of the people on this forum who hold responsibility for strategic decision making in this area?


  5. HR, managers or IT??
    What about IT for even letting the data off of the server in the first place!!!

  6. it securuty failure;symptom or cause?
    As you say “what about IT?” and obviously there NEEDS to be data security to prevent malicious damage/theft. It is my suspicion that the issue goes deeper; well intentioned staff members wouldn’t have taken the data off the server to put on their take-work-home laptop IF they hadn’t felt the need to take the work home.
    The same would relate to paper files, office stationary, mobile calls over the weekend, stabbed-by-your-child-for-not-paying-attention-to-them-on-Sunday-afternoon-because-you-are-working and so on.

    If you fix the data security issue people WILL find a way round it IF they feel they NEED to. Humans are marvellously ingenious!

    I am of the opinion that a major strategic issue for HR is to combat the FEELING that people at all levels have, that they must be/must be seen-to-be working all the time.
    (it also rolls onto attending training; how many of us can say we have never had a no-show because “I’m too busy at the moment to come to a day training”)


  7. Long hours and personal data
    A couple of issues worth commenting one here.

    I think responsibility for tackling the long hours culture lies at the top. I’ve worked for companies in the past where managers were aggressively competitive about the long hours they worked, this was because the CEO saw long hours as a measure of commitment. Interestingly I now work in local government where a long hours culture is pretty much non-existent, I’m even made toi feel guilty about working through my lunch hour.

    With regard to laptops and data protection. Since the losses were highlighted I’ve been wondering just how much of our personal data is routinely carried around on pen drives and whether we’d ever hear about it if one of these went missing.


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